041 - The Vanishing of Lily Aramburo
Lucely Aramburo, often referred to by friends and family as Lily, was born on November 16th, 1983 in San Francisco, California. Shortly after her birth, Lily’s parents made the crosscountry move from California to Florida, settling Miami. Lily’s father left soon after the move and filed for divorce. Though the reasoning has never been made clear, it seems apparent that Lily’s father wanting nothing to do with Lucely or his newborn daughter. According to Lily’s mother, Lucely, after whom her daughter is named, all contact was severed between them. When asked about Lily’s father in an interview later, Lucely stated “He’s never had any communication with Lily since we divorced.” Lily was Lucely’s pride and joy, a beautiful baby girl with thick brown hair and brown almond eyes that could make the subtle transition to hazel from time to time. Of her daughter, Lucely would say “Lily represented everything that I knew that was good to me and always wanted. She represented happiness to me.”
It was a difficult challenge for Lucely, raising a daughter all on her own without any great job prospects or degrees to fall back on. Frequently, Lucely supported them by selling flowers at busy intersections and performing various odd jobs. She was dedicated to her daughter, and as a result, went to any length she deemed necessary ensure that Lily was raised in a supportive and loving environment. Knowing that the abandonment by her father could bring Lily later in life, Lucely did all she could to ensure that her daughter never felt unloved or wanting. As a result of this, mother and daughter moved around, but stayed in the Miami area. Lily was described by friends and family as a deeply caring and sweet young girl. Her personality was magnetic and her compassion was all encompassing, and as a result of that in combination with her beaming smile and tremendous sense of humor, Lily had an easy time developing and maintaining many friendships. Her social circle began growing at a young age, and while Lily had a good number of friends, she was also introspective and sensitive.
Lily loved nature, and would spend as much time outside as she could. She especially loved flowers and trees and thoroughly enjoyed watching wildlife. According to Lucely “She would like to be in the park, or just being in nature, whatever it was, even if it was just walking anywhere, she’ll walk and pay attention to a tree, a flower, a bird. Any kind of animals, she would admire everything and feel a part of it.” Lily’s love for flowers, perhaps inherited from her mother, would stay with her throughout her life. She felt a special kinship with them, and one of her favorite activities was picking flowers. When life got to be too much, or Lily simply needed some time to herself, she would often wander off and find a field or meadow where she could spend hours just admiring the scenery, gathering flowers and feeling at one with the beauty of the environment she so adored.
Lily would attend Shenandoah Elementary, Riviera Day school in Coral Gables, the home of the University of Miami. She would go on to attend Ponce de Leon Middle School. She was a good student, not necessarily rising to the top of her class, but her grades were good and she very much enjoyed spending her time learning. Each year that passed lead to Lily’s circle of friends evolving more and more, and as she began blossoming into a teenager, her interests would grow as well. She took a an interest in music, falling in love with Classic rock. She could often be found listening to bands such as the Beatles and the Doors, getting lost in the timeless rhythms. Lily was an avid reader and often found herself digging into biographies about musicians and other figrures that caught her interest. She translated her passion for the written word into her own channel of emotional expression, keeping a journal from a young age.
Things would shift for Lucely and Lily in the summer of 1997. Mother and daughter moved north, from Miami to Hollywood, FL. Lucely opened a flower shop, located on Stirling Road, and while she had hoped that this would provide her with a better ability to raise her daughter and an opportunity for a better life, Lily wasn’t pleased with the choice. Lily was fourteen and it was a difficult transition for her, as any major move is for a teenager. She had established strong friendships and bonds during her first fourteen years, and now she was in a new city with the need to start all over. The move from Miami-Dade county to Broward wasn’t sitting well with her and she tried to maintain her connections to her Miami based friends. The kids Lily met in Broward County were less free spirited, and more restrained by their parents and while she wasn’t a trouble maker, she had gotten used to a less constrained lifestyle.
Lily began attending Hollywood Hills High School and, for the first time, began being difficult and stepping outside the rules. Lucely has suggested that the absence of a strong father figure in the home may have contributed to Lily’s tendency to push the limits, and her disinterest in making friends in her new home wasn’t making it any easier. In a later interview she stated “She didn’t have her father around. She didn’t want to be in Broward because all her friends were in Miami. And those kids didn’t really have any parental supervision. So it was easy for them to start using drugs.” While it wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for a teenager in high school to experiment with alcohol, Lily began earlier than most and wasn’t simply limited to drinking. Lucely, when asked about Lily at this time, responded “The crowd she was hanging out with were having a lot of fun, but also there started to be a little too much fun, so they were a little bit out of control. I am sure there was a lot of alcohol involved, a lot of partying, possibly pot, at that time.” Indeed, Lily had begun smoking marijuana with her friends and around this same time she was diagnosed with depression. Lucely recalls “The school psychologist told me it was due to a chemical imbalance.”
By the time Lily was sixteen, the combination of her depression and drug use was having a dramatic impact on not only her grades and school attendance, but also her personality. She started bucking the system more, breaking the rules and staying out way passed her curfew. While Lucely tried to reign in her daughter, hoping it was just that rebellious phase teenagers often go through, Lily began taking things to a larger extreme. Her experimentation with drugs had also grown to a dangerous level where she had begun trying harder substances, such as ecstasy, ketamine and cocaine. Lucely was struggling to keep her in control, trying to protect her from the dangerous situations she was entering, but Lily’s independence was too strong and before long, she wasn’t coming home at all. Lucely would later say “She’d go hang out with her friends from Coconut Grove. She would sleep in the streets, in a park, at the beach. I’d go out looking for her in all these places until I would find her.” Frustrated with the rules, and with the behavior expected of her, and more driven to have fun and spend her days partying with friends, Lily dropped out of high school.
For the next several years of her life, Lily lived a transient existence. Sometimes home with her mother, sometimes out on the streets. Kelly Starling, a friend of Lily’s who had known her since middle school, explained “We enjoyed just being out in the streets doing whatever we wanted to do. Lily was the closest girlfriend I ever had. At one point, me and her were living in a Toyota.” During this time in her life, Lily stayed away from home, and kept herself high on what was available, only returning home for those brief periods during which she didn’t mind being sober. While it was a partying lifestyle, it was clear that Lily was struggling. Drugs had taken a hold of her, and though she willingly submitted to their influence, and indulged frequently, friends could also see a desire in her to break from her wild lifestyle. In a tragic twist of irony, the girl who had wanted so desperately to be a free spirit, unshackled by the rules of any system, was now bound to one of addiction. The impact on Lucely was painful and difficult, which she explained saying “It was very tough for me. I was a nervous wreck, I couldn’t concentrated on my business.” The relationship between the two became strained, but Lucely loved her daughter desperately and wanted more than anything to bring her home and keep her safe, but Lily was beyond her reach.
Lily and Kelly continued their hard partying ways, finding friend’s houses to crash at when they were worn out. One of these friends was former marine, Christen Pacheco, who developed a friendship with both. Though he had been drug free, he began using with his new friends. He will transition in and out of Lily’s life for the next few years, but will become important later. On those nights when a friend wasn’t available, or Lilly and Kelly had worn out their welcome, the two would often squat in abandoned buildings and vacant houses, and if none were available, they’d walk down to the beach and sleep on the sand. Though Lily was living as, essentially, a homeless woman with a taste for whatever drug she could get her hands on, she managed to maintain contact with Lucely, for the most part. She wouldn’t go more than a few days without calling home and letting her mom know that she was all right, and for Lucely, these calls were both comforting and heartbreaking. When Lily was twenty years old, in 2003, that would change when she met a man, David Lamso, who would not only become her boyfriend, but who would also introduce her to the drug which would take a hold of her like nothing ever had before: heroin.
Concerned friends eventually told Lucely that Lily had begun shooting up. Very worried, Lucely tried to locate her daughter but was unable to. At this time, Lily went a month without calling home, and Lucely knew things had gotten extremely bad. She began hunting for Lily, searching everywhere. She combed the beaches and exhaustively searched Peacock Park. For two days she had been looking and could find no sign of her daughter, until one morning when she was driving passed a bus stop and she saw something that stood out to her. According to Lucely “I saw some rocks and I saw a little head and I just recognized my daughter’s hair and I stopped and sure enough, that was her. She did not look good, she looked very very weak. And I just went to her and it broke my heart and I’d never seen her so skinny and so bad in my life.” At the time Lily was found, she was propped up against David Lamaso, who was also strung out and in no condition to help.
Desperate to save her daughter’s life, and help her break free of her addictions, Lucely funded a stint in rehab. However, Lily quickly decided that it wasn’t for her and after only a week at rehab, Lily broke out and went running back to her boyfriend and her heroin. Their relationship had become more about their mutual addictions and the ready supply of drugs, and they spent most of their time strung out or looking for their next fix. The struggle inside Lily was still raging, though. While she was physically drawn to the high, her mind knew that this wasn’t the life she wanted to live and she was desperate to straighten out and sober up, but she couldn’t resist her urges. In 2004, Lamaso and Lily began using crack in addition to heroin, and this caused a shift in Lily’s personality. The sweet and kind woman who still lingered beneath the face and behavior of her addiction began to fade. She became more aggressive, and as Lucely states “I noticed she became angrier, more irritable.” During this time Lily was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. According to Lucely, Lilly was experiencing paranoia and suffering from hallucinations. It should be noted that some sources have claimed that Lilly did not receive these diagnoses until later.
Sometime in 2004, Lily made several attempts to break her habit. She and Lamaso had an interest in Buddhism, and so they attempted to use that as a method by which to free themselves of their demons, but without professional assistance, it was a struggle neither was strong enough to bring to fruition. While taking some courses about Buddhism, Lily met Janet Forte, an internet media strategist, and the two hit it off. While it was apparent to Janet that Lily was having a lot of problems, she couldn’t help but be drawn to the girl she referred to as a “hippie-pixie.” She wanted to help, even if that only meant lending an ear when one was needed. Beneath the darkness that had overcome her, Janet could see the lovely soul that existed. She described Lily as sweet, kind and compassionate. Their friendship developed quickly and the bond became strong, offering Lily her first true glimpse of the kind of people she could be hanging out with who, rather than pulling her down into their own addictions, might try to elevate her to the person she truly wished to be.
For the next two years, Lily would sway back and forth between sobriety and intoxication. She would go through periods during which time she managed to stay clean, but she always fell back into the cycle of addiction. It wasn’t easy to break free when almost everyone who you’ve considered a friend for the past few years has drugs at the ready. It would require a dramatic change, and for Lily, that came in January of 2006 when she learned that she was pregnant with Lamaso’s child. The pregnancy had a miraculous effect, seeming to shake Lilly from her drug induced haze and for the first time her eyes opened. With the help of her good friend, Janet, Lilly stepped away from the drug world, left David Lamaso and began to change her life. Of this time in her life, Lucely said “She definitely wanted to stop the use of drugs and she wanted to change her life knowing there was another person coming and she was responsible for it.
Janet Forte described this time as an awakening for Lilly, saying “She was surprised, she wasn’t expecting that. She was very happy. She changed completely, she was very positive. She started taking care of things in her life that had been neglected in the past so it was a very happy time for her.” During this time, Lilly committed to Buddhism courses and simultaneously pursued and earned her GED. Things were beginning to look up. Lilly was turning her life around and she was excited by the proposition of being a mother. She and Lamaso didn’t stay in contact, and her eventually moved to Puerto Rico where he began pursuing a life as a Buddhist Monk. For his mother, it was a blessing, saying “Their relationship was never a healthy one.” For Lucely, it was a moment of relief and joy. She had her daughter back, and in September of 2006, Lilly gave birth to a son she named Palden, an event which Lucely described as the happiest moment in Lilly’s life. According to everyone who knew her at that time, Lilly was completely and hopelessly in love with her son. She rarely if ever put him down. Of their bond, Janet stated “She was nurturing, very loving. She was always holding him, always carrying him and hugging him.”
Shortly after the birth of Palden, an old friend resurfaced in Lily’s life. Christen Pacheco, who had met Lily during the days when she was sleeping in cars and abandoned homes with Kelly Starling, had heard about her split up with Lamaso and, according to him, had been harboring feelings for Lily for a long time. At this particular point in her life, Lily was very excited about her newborn son and feeling very optimistic and positive, though there was a certain lurking sadness. Despite the blessing of her son, Lily couldn’t help but feel slightly lonely, that longing for a partner to share this life with, someone to love her as limitlessly as she loved Palden. Christen began making advances, telling her about his interest and trying to woo her over. He provided her with support and friendship when she needed it, but he’d always wanted more. Lucely later said “I believe, after birth, she felt a little too lonely and Christen was always pursuing her, telling her that he would always be there, and offering all these things for her. That security and comfort.” Christen, when asked about his pursuit of Lily explained it simply, stating “I told her, you know I’ve always been in love with you, I’ve always loved you, and she’s like, I love you, I’ve always had those feelings for you.”
In late 2006, shortly after Palden’s birth, Lilly had moved into a trailer which Lucely had helped set her up in. While she had her own place, and a newborn son, there was something missing and the more Christen approached her, the more open Lilly became. At the time, Christen was living in a condo in the Villages of Dadeland and also owned a second home. He was doing well in business and reportedly drove a Cadillac Escalade as well as a motorcycle. While business wise he was rising, personally things weren’t as put together. Christen was still struggling with drug addiction. Despite his struggle, he was kind to her and seemed financially secure, and so when he propositioned Lilly with the idea of moving in with him she was hesistant at first, but eventually agreed. Christen has explained that he very much cared for Lilly, and Palden, and felt that they made a for a loving unit. He was excited by the proposition and, four months after Palden’s birth, in January of 2007, Lilly moved in with Christen and the two became engaged. The romance was developing quickly, but there were also issues between the two that were beginning to rise to the surface.
The two had discussed the possibility of moving to Arizona after getting married, and in early February, Lucely watched Palden while the couple took a trip out west to look at the area and see how they felt about a possible move. This was also around the time that Lucely began to notice their problems, and she witnessed a few separate arguments. Lucely didn’t necessarily think the problems were major, and attributed them to the typical issues that can arise when two people move in together. In a later interview, she stated “I could just tell she wasn’t all that happy. It was just she wasn’t open, she wouldn’t tell me what was going on. I thought they were probably having a little bit of adjusting problems and stuff.” Friends of Lilly’s who were close to the situation have alleged that Christen was not only using drugs at the time, but was using them as a way to coax Lilly into staying with him. They have speculated that Christen, at the time, was trying to get Lilly back on crack and heroin, whether it was so that she would party with him, or so that she’d feel dependent on him was never directly commented on.
Thought an exact date can’t be known for sure, sometime between February and March of 2007, Lilly began use crack again. Lucely described her daughter as vulnerable at this time, and felt that that vulnerability was preyed upon. Lucely became aware that something was wrong and she began to suspect that Lilly was using again. According to her, the two were partying late into the night and constantly having people over. Lilly would frequently ask her to watch Palden in order for them to party without having to be concerned for his well being. Kelly Starling, Lilly’s old friend, was crashing with the couple and became witness to several disputes that continued to escalate in terms of violence. About their confrontations, Kelly said “Lilly is one of those people who can sit there and poke you until you just snap. Christen didn’t know how to control his temper. After he did drugs, he would blow.” She later recalled a situation in which Lilly made a comment about the possibility of leaving Christen for another man, and according to Kelly, Christen “lunged at her and shook her, I had to pull him off her and remind him that there was no excuse for going at her like that.”
On February 19th, police responded to a 911 call from Christen in regard to an argument that was occurring. According to their report, at the time they arrived, both individuals were calm. Police spoke to them separately, but neither was interested in having the other removed from the home, nor in pressing any kind of charges. The situation appeared to be defused and Christen told the officers that he would sleep on the couch that night, and he apologized for the inconvenience. Things were worse the next time police came, which was on March 23rd. Two officers arrived after a call about a dispute and found the condo in disarray. The incident report describes the condo as having “broken glass, old food, garbage and dead insects scattered throughout the home.” There has been a report that Lilly complained about abuse at the hands of Christen during this interaction, but I’ve not been able to find anything which verifies this. There are rumors that Christen knew one of the officers and was able to keep this detail out of the report, though that is debated and unconfirmed.
What is known is that Lilly told the officers that she was struggling with several medical conditions and her medication wasn’t working. She was then taken to Jackson South, a public hospital located in South Miami-Dade. In the mean time, a call was placed to the Florida Department of Children and Families. The DCF took six month old Palden into their custody, reporting that the couple was “in no condition to currently care for him.” Lilly was told by the court that she would not be able to regain custody of her son unless she was able to successfully complete drug rehab. In April, Lilly checked into Saint Luke’s Addiction Recovery Center in Liberty City, where she would stay until May 29th. It should be noted that I have seen reports that her stint in recovery lasted only two weeks, while others have listed her as having been in Rehab for a month. Either way, Lilly’s exit from Rehab is not be her own choice. The court had mandated random drug testing, and Lilly failed her test, which resulted in her expulsion from the rehab center. Lilly was adamant that the test had to be wrong, but the judge wasn’t having any of her argument.
According to Christen, Lilly called him to pick her up, explaining that she had been kicked out of rehab. At this same time, Lucely was granted custody of Palden, but there was a court order which restricted Lilly from seeing or being around her son, and so when Lilly exited rehab, she couldn’t go and see her mother. Instead, Christen and Lilly went to a crack house in coconut grove where they made a purchase, then headed back to his condo and got high. A former neighbor of the couple, Alicia Garcia, ran into Lilly on May 31st in the condo parking lot. According to a statement she made to a reporter, Lilly wasn’t doing well. She stated “She was really down on herself. She complained that everyone in Christen’s apartment was smoking crack, and she blamed him for making her smoke, too. That was the last time I saw her.” Lilly will vanish just over twenty-four hours later.
There has been an unconfirmed report that on or around the day Lily left rehab, she made a phone call to a friend. According to this report, Lily was allegedly crying hysterically and begging her friend to come pick her up because she claimed to be in fear for her life. Allegedly, Lily makes the statement that Christen told her that he could make her disappear and no one would ever find her body. This story is supposedly also told to Lily’s mother, by Lily herself, and she goes on to say that she has woken up in the morning, finding bloody needle marks on her arm, and she worries that when she was either asleep, or passed out from drug use, that someone may have been trying to give her an overdose. While this is a very compelling account, it has never been officially confirmed. Whereas many believe this is a high possibility, others have argued that both Christen and Lily were experiencing paranoia due to their drug use, and Lily was suffering from schizophrenia, among other mental health issues, which may have contributed to this.
Later that day, Lilly and Christen are home at the condo. Later in the day, Kelly arrives along with a man referred to as EJ, later identified by Kelly as Emannuel De Jesus. The foursome begins smoking crack and using various other substances in the living room. According to Christen, at some point, Kelly got up and went into his and Lilly’s bedroom and this caused an argument between the two. Christen stated “I guess it was too noisy out in the living room for her, so she went into the bedroom to lay down. Lilly and I were talking and she got upset that Kelly went into the bedroom, and she was like, you want to be with Kelly now.” Christen says, at this point, he went to the bedroom and asked Kelly to come out, telling her that he and Lilly were going to need their bed and they didn’t want her sleeping in it. According to Christen, when he returns to the living room, Lilly is walking out the front door. She is wearing only a nightgown, nothing else, not even shoes. She takes none of her personal effects with her, though, according to Christen, she is carrying two bungee cords. Lilly, now twenty three years old, exits the condo at approximately 2am on the morning of June 1st and is never seen again.
The bungee cords were supposedly from a bike rack that Christen had. At the time, he didn’t think much of her exit. He later said that he thought she was just taking a walk, or possibly going to pick flowers which she often did when she was upset. He has said he assumed she would return, stating “She left her phone there, she left her purse there. She left everything at house and I’m like that doesn’t make any sense, why would she leave everything? If she was gonna leave, why wouldn’t she at least take her phone with her, or something?” At this point, Christen doesn’t pursue Lilly. He allegedly falls asleep and awakens in the morning to find that Lilly isn’t home. According to him, he isn’t greatly concerned until the day begins turning into night.
Christen drives around looking for her, and supposedly even visits the crack house in Coconut Grove where they had scored drugs previously thinking that she had gone there to get high. According to Christen, it was a very bad environment and he was worried she may have ended up there. He described it as “Guys pimping out their girlfriends, or forcing their girlfriends to have intercourse with people for drugs. Standard crack house. The floors were tore up, the walls were tore up, there was no toilet, no running water, there was no refrigerator, there was no electricity.” Lilly is not at the crack house, according to Christen. He doesn’t report Lilly missing until the evening after she disappeared, on June 2nd, more than 36 hours later, and when he did, he told a disturbing story to the officers responding to the call.
According to the police report, Christen gave a description of Lilly and expressed a concern that she may be suicidal. He told officers that she had previously attempted to commit suicide at the condo. According to his story, Lilly had gone into the closet and used one of his ties to hang herself from the bar on which his clothes were hanging. In a later interview he stated “She was just really drunk and tried to hang herself in my closet. I broke the pole down, put her on the bed. She was still frantic, still crying. Finally, I was able to calm her down.” Interestingly, the details of this story will change over the course of time, but investigators, in that moment, had no reason to doubt them.
There is some debate about how long Christen waited to notify Lucely that her daughter was missing, with some reports showing it as being a two to three days, and others saying it was closer to five days. When he does tell Lucely, he does this over the phone. Lucely later explained “I’m sleeping and I got this phone call from Christen telling me that Lilly walked out of the house and that she hasn’t come back and that he filed a missing person’s report.” She in turn called Janet Forte, explaining that Lilly was missing and that Christen had filed a missing person’s report. Janet and Lucely got together and paid a visit to Christen to find out exactly what happened. He told them the same story he had told police, but for Janet and Lucely, the suicide aspect didn’t connect with them. Lucely later said “Killing herself, not even in a moment like that, that it was so bad, she wouldn’t have done it.” Janet didn’t buy the story that Lilly simply walked away, either. Believing there was more to the story, but Christen wasn’t sharing.
Police began by conducting a search in the area surrounding the condo and speaking to friends and family. They find nothing which indicates foul play, nor any information that leads them to information about Lilly’s possible whereabouts. Almost from the beginning, Lucely and Janet felt there was a disinterest from the Miami-Dade Department. They felt that Lilly’s case wasn’t considered a priority, and that she had been written off as just another drug addict who had disappeared. The case was assigned to Detective Aaron Mancha of the Miami-Dade Police, who was on vacation at the time Lily vanished. Why the case was assigned to a detective who was on vacation cannot be confirmed, but as a result, the case sat on Detective Mancha’s desk for a week before he returned and began his investigation. It should also be noted that it took over a month for an official missing persons flier to be drawn up.
Later, when reached for comment, Capt. Janna Bolinger-Heller, the head of the domestic crimes bureau, pointed out that they receive a monthly average of 400 to 600 missing persons reports. In 2007 alone they received a total of over 5,000 missing persons reports, many of whom had been found. According to Bollinger-Heller, 90% of the cases are closed within the first year, and she further stated “We are talking about runaways to elderly folks who walk away from a nursing home and with adults, they can go missing on purpose, too.” Bollinger-Heller points out that they have only four detectives handling missing persons cases, and is insistent that Lily is a high priority, but that they have many other cases to handle as well. Whether or not the police had a lack of interest, a shortage of manpower or too many other cases to investigate can’t be known for sure, but regardless, the bulk of the searching for Lilly is conducted by her mother and Janet Forte.
A few weeks after Lilly went missing, with no new information and no sightings, Lucely takes to driving around every day, looking in various places she believes Lilly could possibly be. She has fliers printed up bearing photos and giving a physical description, along with the last time Lilly was seen. Lucely later said “I got in the car and started looking in some of the areas that I thought she possibly could be. I was very scared, in a way, but I knew I had to do that so I did and I ended up being in the worst places ever. Horrible crack houses.” Despite her efforts, no information comes in, and while she feels that law enforcement isn’t interested, she is also frustrated to discover that the media has no interest in covering the case either. There are no articles written, no reports given.
By all accounts, Lilly’s case was widely ignored. Many have assumed this has to do with Lilly’s history of drug abuse and Christen’s statements about a suicide attempt. There are others that feel that since Lilly is ignored due to the prevalence of missing white woman syndrome, and with her being of Hispanic decent, rather than a blond haired, blue eyes Caucasian, the media doesn’t see ratings in her story. It’s a frustrating time for Lucely and Janet, who feel the entire case relies on them. They continue the search, using every spare moment they have. Right when desperation was beginning to settle in, and Lucely was feeling that she was never going to find Lilly, she got a surprising phone call that reinvigorated her.
Two weeks after Lilly went missing, Christen called Lucely. According to her, he told her that some mutual friends of his and Lilly’s had spotted her. She was seen in downtown Miami, and the two men, named Elvis and Dario, allegedly reported to Christen that they had spoken to her and were sure it was in fact Lilly. Lucely was skeptical and wanted to speak with the men, and she did speak with one of them who confirmed the story. There doesn’t appear to be a direct confirmation of which man she spoke to, but according to him, he was certain it was Lilly and he swore to Lucely that he had seen and spoken with her. This sparked Lucely and Janet to begin searching Miami more closely, and according to Janet, they combed the entire city. She later said “Her mom and I went out looking for Lilly. We went all over town. Up and down. All over town.”
While this sighting had given them a moment of hope, it was quickly washed away when nothing else came to the surface. It did make Lucely believe that Lilly was still alive out there somewhere, but with each passing day it became harder to cling to that. From the beginning, Lucely and Janet found it nearly impossible to believe that Lilly would just run off. Yes, she had done it in the past, and she was using once again, but things were different now. She had a son who meant the world to her, and in no way could they comprehend her willfully choosing to walk out on him. After two months of fruitless searching, they couldn’t help but feel that something was wrong with the situation and their suspicion of Christen began to grow.
They had several questions which they felt he’d never answered to their satisfaction. Firstly, they wanted to know why he had waited so long to file the missing person’s report, or to contact Lucely. Christen’s response about the report was concise, saying “I called the police earlier but they said you couldn’t file a missing persons report until 24 to 48 hours unless it’s a minor. Should I have filed the report Sunday morning? Maybe, I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was worried about where she was, I wanted to find her.” In reference to not calling Lucely, he simply said “At one point I thought Kelly talked to Lilly’s mom, or somebody talked to Lilly’s mom.”
It should be noted, at this point, that while Kelly has spoken positively of Lily in the few conversations members of the media have had about this case, in her personal life, she doesn’t appear to always be so kind. While it was stated by Christen that Lily accused him of wanting Kelly, which he denied, a photo did appear on Kelly’s myspace page after Lily’s disappearance which depicted herself and Christen in an embrace. Prior to Lily’s disappearance, Kelly made an angry post about Lily on her myspace page, which in part read as follows “She only think about herself dude, she’s seriously a shell of a person. A fucking crackhead. A manipulative, psychotic little monster, and she’s so fucking paranoid about losing her drug supply that she’s turned on me for fear that I’ll steal chris from her because he and I were such close friends before she even started really hanging out with him.” For many, comments such as this have made them speculate as to whether or not something was, in fact, going on between Christen and Kelly, which shines a suspicious light on that final night at the condo.
Lucely and Janet decided to pay an unannounced visit to Christen’s condo, they wanted further clarification. They wanted to find out exactly what happened the night Lilly disappeared, and they wanted him to answer their questions. According to Janet, Christen didn’t behave like someone who was upset or hurting over the disappearance. She stated “His behavior was very strange and he wouldn’t look at us. He would be talking, but he was cleaning his house at the time. It sticks out a lot because he didn’t act like a concerned boyfriend or fiancée.” Christen has argued that, at that time, he was absolutely devastated by Lilly’s disappearance and his behavior could be chalked up to the fact that he had dramatically increased his drug use in some form of self medication. He said “I just wanted to dull the pain of her being gone. I was feeling abandoned.” Shortly after their visit, Lucely and Janet went to see the Miami-Dade Police and told them of their suspicions. Nothing came of this, and the two continued their search.
In September of 2008, a year and a half after Lilly had vanished, the case had grown cold and little to nothing had been discovered. Lilly remained missing and there were no leads, no new information and no one seemed to really care, at least that’s how Lucely felt about it. Janet decided that their best option was to reach out through the internet, and so she created a Facebook page entitled Help Find Lily Aramburo. She also made a blog and began using twitter to spread the word. The push on social media finally yielded some results. Francisco Alvarado, a journalist for the Miami New Times took an interest in the case and wrote a comprehensive article in which he spoke to Police, Lucely, Janet, Kelly and Christen himself. That article happened to come across the desk of two private investigators, Joe Carillo and Anna Lanuza.
The investigator’s were moved by the story and contacted Lucely, offering their services pro-bono. Joe felt that this was a case that needed to be looked at, and he too, felt that authorities likely hadn’t given it the attention it deserved. He later said “We took on the case because Lily Aramburo is a mother and somebody’s daughter and she’s lost and needs to be found.” Interestingly, shortly after the Private Investigator’s took the case, and the article began spreading around, the Miami-Dade Police moved back into action and brought Christen down to be interviewed. During the interview, Christen was asked if he was willing to submit to a polygraph, which he did. The family, along with the private investigators were informed that Christen passed his polygraph. For Carillo, this was enough to take his focus off the man as a possible suspect, stating “If you pass a polygraph, that goes pretty far in eliminating you from being a person of interest from us or law enforcement.”
Since Christen was ruled out, Carillo went to the next two people who had most recently seen Lilly, EJ and Kelly, who had been present at the condo the night she vanished. According to the investigators, they questioned both and when they asked of any possible places that Lilly may have gone, they were told about the crack house in Coconut Grove where Christen had taken her to score drugs the day before she disappeared. The investigators went to the home, hoping to find information. They kept an eye on the place, and eventually got in touch with the owner who gave them the names of some of the individuals who were living there. One of these names stood out on a background check, when it was revealed that he had a prior conviction for second degree murder. For Carillo, this made him a likely suspect and he began to develop a theory that Lilly may have returned to the crack house that night and been the victim of a violent crime.
Carillo also discovered that this suspect was out on bound, but as a private investigator, he doesn’t have the authority to forcibly bring the man in for questioning. He took all of his information on the case and brought it to the Miami Dade Police who went to the crack house and did some investigating, but nothing much came of it and they quickly moved on to other things. Carillo was frustrating feeling like there was possibilities there that weren’t being given due attention. In an interview, he stated “It’s hard to speculate what could have happened in that house. All I know, as an investigator, is that she had frequented that house before and there was a person in that house that had killed somebody before.” Once again, the case begins to fade, growing colder still.
At some point, there is an alleged anonymous tip called into the Miami-Dade Police. According to this call, supposedly from a friend of Christen’s who wishes to not be named, Lily has been murdered and her body is located at an abandoned property. For whatever reason, Police do not conduct a search of this property until a month after the call is received. Two separate search and rescue teams volunteered to conduct the search early on, but authorities did not allow for this to happen. When the police did finally search the property, they report finding nothing, though Janet and Lucely still want the search and rescue teams to give it their own examination as they no longer trust the Miami-Dade Police to properly investigate the case.
For the next two years, the case remains on the shelf. Leads fail to develop, Carillo finds himself in a corner with nowhere to go and Lucely’s frustration with the lack of attention given to her daughters case rises to the breaking point. In November of 2009, in hopes of drawing in attention, she stages a hunger strike, along with Janet. For a week, the two women sit in downtown Miami, refusing to eat while holding signs, handing out fliers and trying to push for some focus on Lilly’s case. The response they get is from predominantly Spanish speaking news organizations who run a few stories on Lilly, but this fails to stir up any new information.
Another year would pass. By December of 2010, Lilly had been missing for three and a half years. It was at this time that Miami-Dade homicide detective Ray Hoadley learns about the case and takes an interest. He approaches his bosses and requests permission to look into the case, and they agree. For the first time since Lilly went missing, a detective is determined to figure out exactly what happened. For Janet, Detective Hoadley’s interest and dedication provided a dramatic shift, not only in the case, but in her own perception. She stated “From the moment I met him I knew things were gonna get better for the investigation and it was the first time in three years that I felt positive and just he changed my whole view of the police department, this man.”
Detective Hoadley’s first step was to examine the case file. He takes extensive notes on all of the information present, but during his examination he begins to question multiple things. First and foremost, almost all of the statements present in the file are unverified. They were simply recorded at the time, but there was no investigation to prove or disprove the statements of people who were present in the condo that night, namely Christen, Kelly and EJ. In addition this, Hoadley has problems with the story in general. The idea that Lily simply walked out doesn’t fit for him, and he later says “It just seemed very unusual that a female would walk out of an apartment at 2 in the morning wearing only a nightgown without any money, without any credit cards, without a phone, when all of that was available to her at the apartment she left from.” Then, Hoadley makes a shocking discovery.
As he is nearing the end of his review, Detective Hoadley comes across the polygraph test that was given to Christen two years prior, in 2008. While the Miami-Dade Police had informed Lucely, Janet and private investigator Joe Carillo that Christen had passed, the test results contradict that. According to the polygraph test, when asked the question “Do you know what happened to Lily?”, the test showed that Christen was deceptive in his response. According to Hoadley, Christen failed that polygraph test. He immediately informed the family, and asked his bosses how it was possible that this man could fail but the information was released that he had passed? All that could be said was that it must have been an error in communication. That error resulted in an additional two years passing, during which time Christen was ruled out as a suspect, when all the while, he should have been being looked at more closely. Sadly, this is not the first surprise Hoadley finds.
In his attempts to verify original witness statements, Hoadley tracks down the two men who had reported seeing Lily in downtown Miami a few weeks after her disappearance, Elvis and Dario. When asked to confirm the sighting, Dario makes the statement that he is positive that he never saw Lily after she vanished. Elvis agrees, saying that he did not see Lily either. When asked why they told Lucely that they had seen her, Elvis alleges that Christen contacted him and asked him to tell Lucely this story, saying that it would make her feel better and cause her to not worry so much. He further alleges that Christen offered him drugs in exchange for his false statements. Christen is asked about this, and responds “I told nobody to say they saw Lily, because if you saw Lily, I wanted you to come with your own merit and for it to be a true, factual thing, and for reasons beyond my comprehension, he said that I told him to say that he’d seen Lily, and there is no way that is possible.”
Hoadley kicks up the pace of the investigation and during the week of Christmas, 2010, he brings in search teams to assist in looking at the condo as well as the area surrounding it. The team consists of officers as well as K9 units and cadaver dogs. They utilize a helicopter to photograph and document the area, looking for any places someone may conceal a body that they couldn’t as easily notice from the ground. Tall grass and weeds are cut down, clearing large sections of land to make searching easier and also to reveal any areas which may show disturbed earth or anything suspicious, though at this point three and a half years of overgrowth have likely concealed the terrain. Sadly, they are unable to find anything of significance at this time. There will be another search conducted in April of 2011, this one consisting mostly of volunteers, friends and family. Present at this search are Janet Forte, Detective Hoadley, Private Investigator Joe Carrillo, among others. Again, nothing is found.
Hoadley also looks into the crack house in coconut grove where Joe Carillo felt Lily may have ended up. Unfortunately, with so much time having passed, there is nothing there which can produce any evidence or solidify any link to Lily. At this point, Hoadley’s suspicions begin to turn more towards Christen and he feels that Lily likely wouldn’t have made it to the crack house. He doesn’t believe the story about Lily walking out, and he has a lot of questions which only one man can answer, and that man is Christen. In March of 2011, nearly four years after Lily vanished, Christen arrives in Hoadley’s office for an interview. Hoadley directly tells Christen that he simply doesn’t believe his story and that it doesn’t make any sense. They run through the events of that night multiple times, and Christen’s story stays fairly consistent. When he mentions to Hoadley that he felt Lily may be suicidal, he tells the story about her allegedly attempting to hang herself in the closet. This time, he can’t seem to keep the details straight about the method by which Lily supposedly attempted hang herself. Of this discrepancy, Hoadley says “At one point he says it was a tie, at another point he says it was a bungee cord. He can’t remember which to say.”
Hoadley simply didn’t believe Christen’s account of things, and he has been vocal about the fact that he believes the story about Lily’s attempted suicide is made up. At this point in the interview, he asks Christen if he would be willing to take a second polygraph test. Christen agrees, but again, when asked if he knows what happened to Lily, his answer shows deception. He fails the second polygraph test, solidifying him in Hoadley’s mind as a person of interest. In response to failing the second polygraph, Christen said “Hoadley says I failed this other one, I don’t know, I don’t see how, it’s like, the nerves, nervousness, whatever it could be. This whole situation eats me.”
Then there is the question of the disappearing SUV. At the time of Lily’s disappearance, among other vehicles, Christen was driving a 2005 Black Cadillac escalade. According to Christen, shortly after Lily’s disappearance, he totaled the SUV when he fell asleep behind the wheel on a long drive home from a family funderal. However, in a memo which has been publicly released, it has been pointed out that Christen never filed an insurance claim in regard to the SUV, there is no official accident report and the whereabouts of the SUV itself remain unknown. Unfortunately, despite this glaring details, there is nothing solid to connect Christen to a crime being committed.
By this point in time, for both Janet and Lucely, the hope that Lily will be recovered alive has completely faded. They believe, firmly, that Christen knows more about the situation than he has shared and they speculate that he may have been involved in a crime which led to her disappearance. In an interview, Janet stated “We need to find her. Her family needs some sort of resolution. I can’t imagine her son growing up, not knowing what happened to his mother and thinking that she abandoned him or something like that.” Christen is adamant that he had nothing to do with Lily’s disappearance. He would say “If I had something to do with her disappearance, why would I force the police to take a missing person’s report when I could have let that go? I had nothing to do with Lily’s disappearance, there is nothing that I knew, more than her leaving my apartment, and there is nothing I know, there is nobody I have spoken with, there is nobody I’ve talked to, that has any idea, along with myself, about what happened to Lily that night after she left.”
Sadly, the information about the investigation, about Lily’s disappearance, about everything, begins to taper off here. There was another sighting reported, the manager of Camillus House claimed to have seen Lilly in a homeless shelter in downtown Miami. Police were dispatched, but unable to locate Lily. Lucely put fliers up at the shelter, though she feels it was a false sighting, having received no calls after putting up the fliers. Miami-Dade Captain Bolinger-Heller, when asked about the possibility of foul play, responded “We haven’t ruled out anything, but at this point, we have no proof of criminal wrongdoing in this case, so we can’t just pick someone up and arrest them.”
Sadly, Lily’s case has been fairly absent in the media, getting only minor coverage in a few newspaper articles and across a few online blogs. For whatever reason, this sad and tragic story has been pushed aside, and while the debate about why is endless, the one thing that is known for sure is that a beautiful, loving young mother has disappeared and remained absent for more than eleven years. Several theories have been put forward in regard to what may have happened to Lily, some by Janet and Lucely, some by Detective Hoadley and some by Christen.
The first theory is that, as Christen alleges, Lily Aramburo walked out of the condo at 2am, wearing only a nightgown, carrying bungee cords, and was simply never seen again. Whether Lily elected to walk away from everything and everyone she ever knew, while abandoning her son, remains hotly debated.
The second theory follows along the lines of the first, though in this situation, it has been theorized, predominantly, again, by Christen, that Lily left the condo that night, not to run away, not to go get a fix, but to commit suicide due to the state of her life, her addiction and her son being removed from her custody.
The third theory is that Lily may have left of her own volition, and gone back to the crack house located in coconut grove, where she may have been the victimized by any number of unsavory individuals living there, and possibly murdered.
The fourth, and final theory, is that Lily did not leave the condo by her own choice that night. For many, including Lily’s own family and Detective Hoadley, they believe that Christen knows exactly what became of Lily and that she was likely the victim of a violent crime. Others suspect that Kelly may know more than she has told and have speculated that she may have been involved in either the commission of or covering up the crime.
Lily Aramburo disappeared nearly eleven years ago. Over the course of those years, her mother and best friend have never stopped talking about her, fighting for justice, struggling to get the authorities and the media to give their attention to a case that clear needs a much deeper look. Janet Forte manages a twitter account, which utilizes the hashtag Justice4Lily as well as the blog, JusticeinMiami.org. She continues fighting for her best friend, and has done multiple interviews with online bloggers, and was also kind enough to speak to me during my preparation for this episode.
Christen has had his difficulties in the years since Lily vanished. He has faced multiple arrests on drug charges, trespassing, resisting arrest with violence and driving without a valid license. He claims to be sober today, and while he says he wishes he knew what happened to Lily, interviews conducted with him in later years show the wear and tear of a man who has been, for many, the one and only suspect. In an interview, Christen was quoted as saying “It burns me up that they keep coming back up to us. We had nothing to do with her missing. She walked out of my apartment, on her own merit, she left.”
Lily’s son, Palden, will turn twelve this year, having no true memory of his mother outside of what he is told, and family photographs. He has grown up never having the answers, and in the meantime, Lucely has raised her grandson, telling him that Lily is in heaven, but every day is still hard to face. She hasn’t seen her daughter since 2007, and she had to grapple with the difficulty reality that she may never see her again. When last seen, Lucely Lily Aramburo was described as being a Hispanic female with brown hair and brown or hazel eyes. She stands 4’11” to 5’4” tall and weighing approximately 100 to 110 pounds. Lily has a scar on her left hand, a scar below her left knee, a caesarian section scar on her lower abdomen, freckles on her shoulders and face. She has musical notes tattooed on her back. Both ears are pierced and she has previously broken her right wrist and her back.
In Lily’s absence, her mother has had to move on with her life, doing the best she can for herself, and her grandson. While the loss is a pain that impossible to describe, Lucely does have the gift of her grandson, to whom she credits so much of her drive and determination. When asked how she does it, Lucely answered “I kept moving forward because I have a tremendous gift, a tremendous blessing, which is Lily’s son, which he happens to look identical and is just another chance for me to give my love to my daughter, to him, to learn from all these things. I still believe something is gonna happen, I have to. I have to believe I’m going to find out what happened to my daughter.”
[Thoughts & Theories]
The disappearance of Lily Aramburo is a terribly tragic story. A young mother, struggling with addiction issues, simply vanished into the night and the more one looks at the case, the less sense it makes. Her mother has never stopped searching for her, and her best friend has devoted a great deal of time and effort to trying to locate Lily, as well as attempting to keep her name alive in the total absence of media interest, or apparently, police interest. It’s exceedingly frustrating, attempting to research this case, because of a total lack of available information. There are very few news articles, most of which come up short on facts. A google search for Lily finds her name spelled in several different ways, with most writers not even interested enough to get the spelling correct. Even her official, police made missing persons flier spells her name incorrectly.
Sadly, this is not an uncommon story. A person goes missing, and if the media doesn’t see dollar signs in the story, they don’t take it on. I’ve discussed the phenomena of missing white woman syndrome before, and this case certainly seems to be one which defines it more clearly. Lily was a Hispanic woman, from a lower class background, and had a history of drug abuse, and for many in the media, that’s enough to dismiss her story as unnewsworthy. While the media has the right to report, or not report, any story they desire, the questions really become difficult to answer when one examines the investigation of the Miami-Dade Police. Yes, they are overworked, understaffed and working an overwhelming case list, but does that justify essentially putting this file on the back burner?
Anyone who looks at missing persons cases knows how incredibly crucial those first days and hours are, and in this case, those opportunities to get a jump start were simply thrown by the wayside. In the years since, while they have been publicly outspoken about their dedication to the case, private emails I have viewed would tell the story very differently. With the exception of Detective Hoadley, there has been no law enforcement official who has truly given his or her all to this case, and much of the details have been allowed to fall through the cracks. Even Private investigator Joe Carrillo, working probono, dedicated more time and energy to Lily. It’s a very sad turn of events, and in a case where the answers may all be available beneath the surface, the digging investigative skills necessary were simply not applied, or applied too late.
Before moving into the theories, I wanted to address two things. Firstly, Janet Forte. Though I typically do not reach out to anyone associated with the cases I cover until after I have done the episode, in an attempt to clear myself of any bias or by being swallowed into too much speculation, I did find it necessary to reach out to Janet. This case has so little information available that I wanted to ensure I was able to get what was necessary to tell this story in its full context. I wanted to thank Janet for her openness with me, and for her willingness to discuss this very painful part of her life. I asked Janet for verification of several pieces of information, and I asked her for information about Lily as well as the state of the investigation. She was very forthcoming, open and honest and I greatly appreciated her candor and directness.
Secondly, I wanted to address Lily’s known drug addiction. I understand the stigma that goes along with addiction, and how for many, it’s very easy to dismiss someone who had a drug problem. This seems to be a state of mind that permeates many aspects of society, including but not limited to the media and investigators. I have known several people throughout the course of my life who have struggled with addiction. There are so many misconceptions about addicts, many of whom want to get out from under the crushing control of their drugs of choice, but simply do not have the ability, the will power or the assistance necessary to do so. I cannot change your mind about this subject, but I do ask for a level of understanding and compassion, at a minimum. Lily was suffering from multiple forms of mental illness while simultaneously battling her addiction issues, and while she was able to get clean during her pregnancy, she wasn’t able to maintain it much beyond that. Be that due to the influence of others, or her own temptations, we can’t know for sure, but it is my belief that no one, whether alive, deceased, missing or found, should ever be dismissed entirely and considered less worthy of time, attention or focus from a police department due to addiction issues. Lily was a daughter, a mother, and a friend. She had her demons, and ultimately, they may have contributed to her disappearance, but that doesn’t make her disposable nor undeserving of justice.
The first theory in this case examines the possibility that the initial reports of Lily’s disappearance may be correct and that she, wearing only a nightgown, elected to walk out of the Condo at 2am, carrying bungee cords, and mysteriously vanished into the night. There are a lot of factors when it comes to this theory. First, we have to consider the source which is Christen Pacheco himself, the man many consider to the prime and most likely person of interest in this case. This doesn’t go very far to speak to his credibility. However, the possibility has to be considered either way. We don’t exactly know what Lily’s state of mind may have been at this time. We know from a previous visit from police that Lily spoke about struggling with her mental health issues and made the statement that her medications weren’t working. Lily was known to suffer from schizophrenia, bi-polar, depression and anxiety. Taking these into consideration, Lily’s mental state that night may not have been the best. If you factor in drug use which took place, we have no way of really getting inside of her head.
Christen has said that Lily became angry with him that night over their mutual friend Kelly, who she accussed him of having a romantic interest in. If Lily was high, struggling with her mental illnesses and feeling angry on top of that, she could have been likely to storm out as she is alleged to have done. Of course, there are details about this which don’t make any sense. Why would Lily have taken nothing with her, other than allegedly bungee cords, leaving behind her money, phone, clothes and even shoes? It doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Now, if someone is in a bad mental state and intoxicated on illicit drugs, their choices may not be the most logical. The question would then become where she was intending to go. Multiple people throughout her life have said that Lily would often go out picking flowers when she felt sad, depressed or frustrated. Even Christen said that he thought perhaps that is what she was going to do that night, but it doesn’t really make sense in the overall picture of things.
One detail about the walking out theory which makes a lot of people question it is the fact that, after walking out, Lily was never seen again. We are talking about a twenty-three year old woman who had nothing besides her nightgown and the alleged bungee cords. How could she walk off and, if it was truly of her own volition, manage to stay hidden for all of these years? Some have brought in the possibility that Lily may have become the victim of a random act of violence, and this is certainly something that may have happened, but the idea of a woman walking the streets in an nightgown at 2am seems like it might draw some attention from people who may have seen her. It has been nearly eleven years since Lily vanished, and in that time, there has never been a single confirmed sighting of her. If indeed she walked out, unless she ran across someone looking to create a problem or commit a crime, it’s highly unlikely that she would have stayed gone all of these years and, in the hours and days after leaving, wouldn’t have reached out to a friend or her mother for assistance.
There simply isn’t a lot to work with here. The idea that she walked out cannot be completely ruled out, but in the grand scope of things, it certainly doesn’t seem like it possesses the highest probability. Christen and Lily had a very back and forth relationship, arguments and violence don’t appear to be uncommon, so why would she walk out after what was allegedly a minor argument, and why wait for Christen to have gone to the bedroom to do so? It’s also curious that Christen wouldn’t have at least gone to the door and called her name or tried to convince her to come back in, but when you’re dealing with a condo full of people who are getting high, who is to say what kind of behavior would fit into the definition of normal at that time. The bungee cords are an interesting factor, and for many, if Lily did indeed walk out with them, then suicide could be really the only possibility here, which leads us to our second theory: That Lily left the condo that night with the intention of taking her own life.
The suicide theory is predicated by a few different details. Firstly, that Lily is said to have taken two bungee cords with her. Secondly, Christen’s statement that she had attempted suicide previously, a story which no one in Lily’s life had ever heard prior to that day. Thirdly, that Lily was suffering from mental health issues and even her own mother, around that time, thought she may be exhibiting signs of post-partom depression. Fourthly would be her drug addiction and the influence of those drugs on her thought process and finally is the heartbreaking blow she suffered when her son was removed from her custody and she blew a chance to win him back by failing a drug test while in rehab. All of these go towards her state of mind, and it isn’t hard to imagine that someone with this dangerous combination of circumstances may feel frustrated, overwhelmed and, in a moment of weakness made worse by an argument and the influence of drugs, may have considered ending her own life.
It’s impossible to rule this out, when all factors are considered. Lily was clearly in a bad place. When her mother was asked about suicide, she was adamant that Lily would never have done that. She loved her son too much and wanted to get her life together for him. Most of Lily’s friends felt she wasn’t the suicidal type, but it’s impossible to know what was going through her mind at the time. It isn’t uncommon for people suffering from mental health issues, in combination with a crippling addiction, to take extremes in order to end their suffering. Some things do some into question though, as neither Lily’s mother, nor Detective Hoadley believed Christen’s story about the previous suicide attempt and Christen himself seemed to have difficulty keeping the story straight. We also have to consider the alleged phone call, during which Lily is said to have claimed she was in fear for her life from Christen. Would someone who was considering suicide as an option be expressing a genuine concern for her life twenty-four to forty-eight hours earlier? Perhaps, but it certainly makes things more suspicious.
The suicide theory becomes even more bizarre when you consider the fact that Lily was never found. Taking bungee cords would, in most cases, suggest the possibility of hanging, or at least, some form or fashion of self-inflicted strangulation. Most people who are not in the right mind, and are in a place dark enough to consider suicide, aren’t going to go through a great deal of trouble to conceal the location of their body. If indeed Lily’s plan was to go and commit suicide, why wasn’t she ever found? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it throws a lot of question on the suicide possibility. Lily was walking, barefoot, at 2am. The idea that she would have walked far enough away as to not be located is unlikely also.
The Village at Dadeland, where the condo was located, is in the middle of an urban area. The ocean was located approximately five miles to the east of the condo. The average walking speed of a person in decent health, not influenced by drugs or lacking appropriate footwear, is seventeen to twenty-two minutes, assuming this person is walking the average of 2.8 to 3.5mph. For arguments sake, imagine Lily was able to cover a mile every fifteen minutes. This would have her walking an hour and fifteen minutes, during which time, she would be passing through urban areas and was never sighted. While I believe suicide is a possibility that must be considered, there is not enough information available to say for certain. The lack of a body makes this theory hard to swallow in general.
The third theory sticks with the idea of Lily leaving of her own volition, though it specifies a possible location she was heading toward: the crack house in coconut grove where she and Christen had previously scored drugs. Coconut grove was a neighborhood located approximately 4.5 miles south west of the condo, making it a shorter walk for Lily than to have gone towards the beach, but also still taking her somewhere around an hour if she weren’t in weighed down by drugs and a lack of shoes. Also, why would Lily bring the bungee cords with her? Hard to say, really, but for a time, there was a consideration that Lily may have gone towards this crackhouse location, either hoping to score more drugs, looking for a place to crash or for some unknown reason. Private Investigator Joe Carrillo felt there was a great possibility that Lily had ended up at that location, and had been murdered.
There was allegedly a tip given that Lily had been murdered by three individuals, including a man who had previously been convicted of second degree murder. Though Carrillo passed this information on to the Miami-Dade Police, nothing was ever done about it. In fact, the Police visited the crackhouse and fairly quickly crossed it off their list of possibilities, whether this was due to finding information which proved Lily had never been there, or simply out of a lack of information, we may never know. Regardless, the idea that Lily may have been the victim of a violent crime here certainly has to be considered. We have Christen’s own description of the place, which makes it sound like every horrible thing you’d imagine a crack house to be, and then some. Christen has said he thought it was possible that Lily had gone there, and that he had checked for her, but again, almost all of his statements on this case have to be taken with a grain of salt.
Let’s face it, it’s a sad reality but people who are addicted to drugs are often assaulted and murdered by other drug addicts and dealers. When you bring drugs, paranoia, money, shady people and shady locations together, you’ve got a very dangerous situation. Had Lily made the walk to that crack house on the night she vanished, there is almost no end to the possibilities of what could have happened to her there. We know that at least one of the people who frequented the location was murderer, so the idea that Lily could have become a victim certainly has to be considered. The problem is, again as we’ve seen so much with this case, there’s almost nothing to go on. We have an alleged report that Lily may have been murdered, but with no corroboration and no evidence. When Detective Hoadley went back to think location, years later when he got involved in the case, he felt that so much time had passed that any physical evidence which could have once been present was no longer there. He was likely correct.
Of course, everything about Lily going to the crack house the night she vanished is speculative. She wasn’t a foolish person, and it seems more likely had she been looking for somewhere to spend the night, or someone to give her a hand, she was much more likely to reach out to a friend or her mother. We may never know the answer to the question of why she would have gone down there, unless, perhaps she thought someone there was a friend she could trust. Again we have to consider her mental state and the possibility that she wasn’t thinking straight. While I consider the crack house angle an interesting possibility, there isn’t much which can be done with it at this point in time. There was nothing to sweep for evidence, detective Hoadley found nothing and Joe Carrillo passed on information to the police who ultimately swept it aside, either because they ruled it out or because they simply didn’t follow up on it properly. Ultimately, this is another possibility in a case where almost everything is possible.
One interesting thing to consider about the first three theories is that they are all based around one detail: Christen’s statement that Lily walked out of the condo that night, of her own choice. That leads us to the final theory: that Lily did not leave the condo by her own choice and that Christen, Kelly, EJ or some combination of the three know what happened to Lily and that she was likely the victim of a violent crime. This is a difficult theory to pursue as it is full of speculation, contradictory statements, polygraph results and it revolves around a lot of rumor, as well as an examination of the actions of a group of people who were all using drugs, specifically crack, at the time. While Christen has done a few interview, and even appeared on the television show Disappeared, Kelly has been less outspoken and EJ himself has been, predominantly, a mystery. Kelly did identify EJ as being a man named Emmanual De Jesus, but whether or not authorities ever spoke to him is unknown. Kelly herself has said that police waited a very long time before they reached out to her for information also.
Kelly was reportedly friends with Christen for a long time, and it was through her that Lily met him. Lily and Kelly had been friends since middle school, and were using drugs and crashing in various places together at different points in their life. They lived in a car together for a period of time and ran in similar circles of friends. Kelly has been both positive and negative when speaking about Lily, seeming to show two sides to their friendship. On one side, the two were close and trusted on another. On the other side, when drugs were heavily involved, there were disputes and paranoia, much of which revolved around eaches relationship with Christen himself. There appears to have been some jealousy there, with Christen having said that Lily accused him of wanting Kelly, and Kelly having posted on Facebook that the drugs had made Lily paranoid about their close friendship. Interestingly, Kelly speaks about Lily being a so-called crackhead, while she herself, was allegedly indulging in the same drug activities.
There really isn’t much known about EJ other than he hung around the group, may have had an on again off again relationship with Kelly and was present the night Lily vanished. It has been stated that EJ was present in the living room of the condo with Lily when Christen went to the bedroom to speak to Kelly, at which point Lily walked out. I have read it both ways, with Christen saying he saw Lily exit the condo with the bungee cords as he returned to the living room, as well as Christen saying it was EJ who told him that Lily walked out and then he later noticed the bungee cords she was holding were missing, too. Regardless, the three shared a similar story, that Lily had walked out and they had no idea where she had gone. Christen speculated she may have gone to the crack house. Kelly said that was the only place she could think that Lily may have gone. What EJ had to say seems to remain unknown, but had he contradicted their stories, it would likely have appeared somewhere in relation to this case by now.
Kelly has said in interviews that Christen becomes violent when he is on drugs and that, on at least one occasion, she had to pull Christen off of Lily when he lunged at her during an argument. Here is an important detail to consider: Christen was making good money at the time. He had multiple vehicles, two residences and was a co-founder of a non-profit organization. It isn’t hard to imagine that Christen was likely considered by his drug addicted friends to be a good supply, and in many of these cases, these people don’t want to get on the bad side of the person who is helping them get their fix. It may all be speculative at this point, but were it true, this could have colored accounts of that night. You also have to factor in Kelly’s possible relations with Christen, with whom she continued to hang around after Lily vanished.
Not long after Lily vanished, Christen alleges that his grandmother passed away and he totaled his 2005, black escalade suv when he fell asleep at the wheel. Over the years, Christen has been somewhat evasive in talking about this incident too frequently and no one has yet produced a police report or insurance claim proving that this is what happened to his vehicle. For many, this raises questions about why, so soon after Lily vanished, his primary vehicle would have gone missing. Whether or not it may have contained forensic evidence suggesting a crime had been committed remains unknown at this time. Others look at Christen suspiciously simply because of how long he waited to file a missing persons report, and then additionally, how long he waited before notifying Lily’s mother. He did say he assumed someone else had told her, but considering the gravity of the situation, it would have made sense to double check that.
Friends of Christen’s, Elvis and Dario, later told Lily’s mother that they had seen her in Miami after her disappearance. This changed the shape of the search somewhat, as if someone has been seen after a disappearance, it opens up multiple options. However, when Detective Hoadley spoke to the men, both alleged they had never seen her and Elvis went further, claiming that Christen offered drugs in exchange for making up the story that they had seen her. Christen denies this, and it’s hard to know who is telling the truth here, but Elvis and Dario do appear to have less of a reason to lie about it. They had no dog in that fight, and it seems unlikely they’d have made up the sighting out of nowhere. Again, we can’t know for sure.
Christen told investigators that Lily had attempted suicide previously and that he had saved her life. According to his story, she had hung herself from the bar in the closet and he’d broken the bar down. Strangely, the details about this alleged attempt changed over time with Lily in one account hanging herself with a tie, and in the other account, using a bungee cord. One might be able to chalk this up to confusion, the passage of time and the involvement of drugs, but Detective Hoadley felt the entire story was made up in order to give strength to the possibility that Lily may have left on her own, and to put her into consideration to have not been in the right state of mind.
From everything I have looked into, I have found no evidence that Christen ever took part in any of the efforts of Lily’s mother and Janet to have raised awareness of the case, nor did he participate in volunteer searches for her. While Christen alleges that he was spiraling out of control into drugs over his depression about Lily’s disappearance, others have argued that he wanted to distance himself from the investigation. Both Janet and Lucely found him evasive in his answers when the spoke to him and Lucely is on record as stating that in all the years since Lily vanished, Christen has never reached out to her to see how she is doing, nor has he asked about Palden, a child whom he at one time referred to as family.
Then there are the two polygraph tests that Christen failed. While I am not a huge proponent of the varacity of polygraph tests, they are often extremely unreliable and as a result are not admissible in court, it’s interesting that he volunteered to take them in the first place and that the only points during the tests where he is believed to have shown deception is when he was asked if he knew what happened to Lily. Whether the failed polygraph indicate guilt, that’s an unlikelihood, but they certainly raise suspicions that had been previously silenced when it was mistakenly reported that he had passed his first polygraph. I still don’t understand how a police department can publicly state someone passed a polygraph when the person in fact failed. It’s yet another example of ways in which this case wasn’t given the attention that it demanded, and frankly, deserved.
Suffice it to say, ahem, you’ve got someone who was close with Lily, alleged to have been violent with her in the past. There was a rumored phone call in which Lily expressed fear for her life and suggested that Christen had claimed he could make her disappear. While much of this is hearsay or speculative, when considered in with all of the other information, this doesn’t paint a great picture for Christen. Somehow, despite all of this information, all of these curious details, and the fact that the lover / boyfriend / fiancée is often the first person police would consider a likely suspect, Christen wasn’t officially questioned by police until nearly two years after Lily disappeared, which was also when he was given his first polygraph test. To say that this entire case is a travesty of justice is an understatement.
Whether or not Christen played a role in Lily’s disappearance, we simply don’t know. Some have theorized there may have been a violent crime commited. Others consider the possibility that Lily could have overdosed, and in their drug induced haze, the decision was made to conceal her death. Neither of these can be ruled out. However, it seems more than obvious and apparent that Lily’s last night holds the answers and there is a good likelihood that someone in that condo knows more. This is an avenue which should not only have been looked into at the time, but which should still be being examined. Perhaps, had it been looked at more closely at the time, we wouldn’t still be wondering.
One factor about Christen which I can’t help but find curious every time I read or listen to an interview with him is the way he speaks about the condo that night. I have not yet seen a single quote from Christen where he ever refers to it as “ours.” He doesn’t say Lily left our apartment, or even the apartment, he says she left “my apartment.” He doesn’t say she left things at our house, or at our place, he says she left everything at “my house.” Perhaps that is nothing more than arbitrary word choice, but I’ve always found it peculiar that they lived together and yet he still refers to it all as his. Sure, he was paying the bills, but when someone lives with you, especially someone you claim to love and plan to marry, doesn’t my home become our home? Purely my opinion, but I did want to call attention to it.
We may never have the answers as to what happened to Lily that night. Whether she walked away, as Christen claims, or whether that was a not so elaborate cover story designed to throw off suspicion, that just happened to work because of an investigation that was anything but devoted. When all of the theories are put side by side, it seems incredibly difficult to dismiss this final theory as being one of the most likely. At a minimum it demands a greater level of investigation. Four people, high on crack, spending the evening in a condo together. One goes missing, and the other three are never officially considered suspects, nor even thoroughly questioned until years after the report is filed. Anybody else have a problem with this? I spoke to a few friends in law enforcement during my investigation of this case, and when I spoke about this particular issue I received words such as “unprofessional,” “ridiculous,” and “pathetic.” Hard to disagree.
It has been nearly eleven years since Lily Aramburo vanished without a trace. Over the course of those years, her case has been subject to a very disjointed and unhelpful investigation. It was revitalized by a dedicated detective named Ray Hoadley, who has since retired but has never given up hope that someday the answers will be found. Lily’s friend, Janet Forte, continues to advocate for Lily on twitter, under the username Yogini, while maintaining the website justiceinmiami.org. She remains outspoken, takes part in interviews and continually emails the Miami-Dade Police about the need for further investigation, despite a resounding lack of responses and she was exceedingly kind, cooperative and helpful for this particular episode of Trace Evidence.
Lily’s mother, Lucely, continues raising her grandson in the hopes that someday she will find the answers as to what happened to her beloved daughter. Perhaps, some day, she will be able to tell her grandson about his mother, and be able to end the story by telling him that the truth was discovered and justice was served. Outside of a few articles written in local Florida newspapers, the broadcasts of a few Spanish language news outlets, and a few online blogs, Lily’s case is all but ignored. Perhaps that can change, and maybe someday we will all learn about what happened to the beautiful, sweet and kind woman who gave birth to a son whom she loved more than anything, but never got to watch grow up. Until further evidence is found, someone comes forward with new information or there is a miraculous break in the case, the vanishing of Lily Aramburo remains open, unsolved, ice cold and virtually, ignored. Perhaps we can change that. I don’t often ask this, but if you’ve listened to this episode, and this story has moved you, the way it has moved me, share it. Utilize the hashtag #justice4lily, that’s j-u-s-t-i-c-e the number 4 – l –I – l –y.